The information space and electronic carriers are actively transformed to be able to obtain specific medical information. This fact contributes to the development of medical integrated information systems, remote patient support, diagnosis, treatment, etc. (Kuznetsov, Chebotarev, Uzdenov, 2014.) The popularity growth of smartphones among mobile phone users over the world created a significant impact to a new segment of electronic health systems – mhealth. (Tarasenko, 2014)
Istepanian, Jovanov and Zhang (2004) in their article for the IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine defined M-health as a complex of “mobile computing, medical sensor, and communications technologies for health-care.” (Istepanian, Jovanov, Zhang 2004).
In the mHealth research provided by World Health Organization (2011), mobile health is described as medical services upheld by various mobile wireless devices and portable gadgets. (World Health Organization, 2011.) MHealth implies the use of mobile devices’ special functions. These functions are video, photo, voice and short messages; mobile communication systems (3rd and 4th Generation); geolocation services; wireless connection abilities etc. (World Health Organization, 2011.)
The Implementation of information systems in the field of healthcare not only improves the effectiveness of medical services but also provides the cost reduction such as a decrease in the number of re-hospitalizations (Statista, 2014). The diagram below demonstrates the cost savings predicted in the year 2014.
Figure 1. Potential cost savings in health care by mHealth in 2014. (Statista, 2017)
Robert Istepanian (2006) mentioned in his book that mobile technologies would have a positive impact on the way how different healthcare organizations provide their medical services globally causing the enhancement of future healthcare services. ( Istepanian, Laxminarayan and Pattichis, 2006.)
Mobility of the specialists, in time collaboration and communication are highly important aspects of the healthcare system. Before the wide spread of mobile phones in 1990s professionals from the medical field used pagers for mobile connection with patients and colleagues. The emergence of Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) in 1990s offered medical professionals more convenient solution to organize their contacts and other data. Now there is a device on the market which combines the functions of pager, PDA and mobile phone named “smartphone”. (Burdette, Herchline and Oehler, 2008.)
The mHealth application market exists for approximately 10 years. The first mass market for medical mobile applications was implemented in Apple App Store by Apple in 2008, however, there was a number of digital healthcare solutions before. (Research2Guidance, 2017.)
Apple launched a new category called “Apps for Healthcare Professionals” in its’ application store in 2011. The new section became a distinctive feature of the “Apple Appstore”. (Lewis, 2013.) In 2013 “Apps for Healthcare Professionals” was divided into subsections. (Dolan, 2011.) Google launched own application store called “Android Market” for devices using Android operating system on October 2010. In March 2012 “Android Market” was rebranded and got a new name of “Google Play”. Application store for Google also offered a wide range of medical applications for android users. (Payne, Wharrad and Watts, 2012.) Some application developers started to make their products available for both “Apple Appstore” and “Google Play”. (Murfin, 2013.)
Since 2013 global amount of mHealth applications downloads was nearly doubled by the year of 2016 (figure 2). Due to the study of Research 2 Guidance (2016) research organizations the total volume of mhealth market increased from $718 million in 2011 to $12,5 billion in 2016 (Research2guidance, 2016).
Figure 2. mHealth app download growth. (Research2guidance, 2016).
There is a big variety of medical and health applications existing by 2017. Categorizing mobile health applications is a complicated process due to a considerable number of products in this field. There were no articles containing systematic review of mobile health and medical applications before 2012. (Mosa, Yoo and Sheets, 2012.) Mosa, A. S. M., Yoo, I. And Sheets, L. (2012) were first authors to classify in their study smartphone-based healthcare technologies according to the functions and specialization. In this chapter the Author describes the most popular categories selected from the article of Mosa, Yoo and Sheets (2012) and other scientific works.
Disease Diagnosis Applications
Disease diagnosis applications for mobile devices are valuable tools for making the diagnosis at the bedside. Software from this category can be very cost effective. Some clinical tests are very costly and medical workers tend to avoid them. Identification of the most relevant tests according to the symptoms will exclude unnecessary tests. (Sarasohn-Kahn, 2010.)
Medical Calculator Applications
Medical calculators are programs for computing different clinical indices and formulas. The most used indices in medicine are body mass index, individual drug dosing, body surface area, etc. Most of the cases of clinical calculations require the use of complex equations with big load of entry parameters. Mobile applications for clinical calculator have an interface to allow the users simplified parameters input and score calculation. Medical calculator users do not have to know the exact formula for computing the index. (Eknoyan, 2007)
Drug Reference Applications
Drug reference mobile applications are highly useful in the field of healthcare. A drug reference applications usually include the names of medicaments, doses, indications, cost of the drug, pharmacology and other characteristics. (Adibi, 2015.)
Clinical Communication Applications
Smartphones provide users with a variety of communication options: voice and video interaction, text messages, E-mails and multimedia exchange. Communication with the help of mobile devices in the field of medicine and health care provides the quick exchange of important and urgent information among medical professionals that leads to the medical errors decrease. (Soto et al., 2006.)
Medical Training Applications
Mobile devices can be used as the tools for medical training. Applications of this category provide training in the latest evidence-based medical practices. (Broderick and Abdolrasulnia, 2009)
Health and fitness Applications
Health and fitness section of mobile applications has a wide range of subcategories and is one of the most popular mHealth category among regular users. Health and fitness applications provide users with a proper diet and general healthcare information; help to improve fitness activities and lose or gain weight; consult during pregnancy, etc. In most of the cases fitness applications require to input personal data of the user, such as physical parameters, gender, date of birth, etc. Fitness software use combination of the smartphone’s sensors, detectors, output and input devices to gather, process and analyze the data of the customer in the process of his activity. In addition, there are applications on the market that have possibility to be synchronized wirelessly with wearable devices and sensors. (Zheng et al., 2014.)
Hearing aid Application
The market of health mobile software likewise offers applications that allow users to transform their smartphones into a personal hearing aid. Applications of this type catch the sound using the microphone of the smartphone to adapt the income signal for the hearing abilities of the user. Some of the hearing aid applications only increase the volume of the incoming signal, at the same time other more complex applications offer similar functionality that can be found in a regular hearing aid. Advanced applications of this segment can lower the background noise and focus on the sound signals that are far away. (Medwetsky, 2015.)
MHealth market size
Mobile health is one of the most developing segment of mobile application industry. MHealth started to grow rapidly approximately 10 years ago and tends to continue growing these days. By the year 2017 roughly 325,000 health applications are present in the major application stores. Compare to the last year amount of medical applications in the mobile application market increased with the number of 78,000. However, the most part of the applications in this segment is developed for Android operating system. MHealth products for Android operating system met the growth rate of 50% after 2016. In case of IOS operating system, the amount of health applications grew with only 20% the last year. (Research2guidance, 2017.)
The amount of 325,000 medical applications in 2017 met the expectation to get 3.7 billion estimated downloads. This fact demonstrates the rise of 16%. The download growth is mostly supported by two operating system platforms Android and IOS. Android has the greatest amount of mHealth applications downloads by this year.The role of other operating system platforms in the industry is miserable. The demand for medical applications is meeting the supply these days. (Research2guidance, 2017.)
The number of mhealth application publishers increased with the rate of 45% in 2017. This trend demonstrates that mobile application developers face the increasing of supply in the market and decreasing the demand. The second important reason of the mHealth market grows is the steady rise of start-up organizations. In 2016 it was invested nearly $5.4 billion into mobile health start-up companies. (Research2guidance, 2017.)
According to the data from Research2guidanca report (2017) the best market conditions for mHealth be met in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. United States and United Kindom have the leading position in the rating due to high indicators of GDP, population size and the total amount of healthcare cost. (Research2guidance, 2017.) The figure 3 demonstrates the level of market attractiveness in percentage for different countries.